Night-owl teens: more sedentary, overweight.

To paraphrase the old adage: “Early to bed and early to rise makes a child healthy, more active, and less obese.” (Not as snappy as the original, but it’s sooo much more 21st century…)

A study of 2,200 Australian teens published in the American Academy of Sleep Medicine confirms what a lot of people (me included) have long observed—kids who stay up late and sleep in late are often more sedentary, overweight, and more hooked on TV, electronic games, and social networking than their early-to-bed classmates.

What this study adds to the discussion: the link to obesity remains even when the late and early sleepers got the same amount of sleep.

There’s a bit of chicken-and-egg going on here, as there often is with research findings. Does a night-owl sleep pattern per se cause a child to become sedentary and obese, or do sedentary activities like late night gaming and texting leave teens with less time and energy to participate in datytime activities? I suspect it’s more the latter. For kids getting the same amount of sleep, two nighttime hours on Facebook or texting means two hours less of potential daytime exercise.

Whatever the case, parents are well-advised to keep an eye on their teens’ nocturnal activities, and establish a firm gimme-that-cellphone! bed time. And take the computer and TV out of the bedroom. Expect some resistance, but hey, did you really think this parenting business was going to be easy?

Here’s some more information on teens and sleep from the National Sleep Foundation.

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Filed under Obesity, Sleep

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